I Sing the Body Autistic
Nothing posted in a while, for a variety of reasons. Been taking Xanax both to deal with the trauma of my Facebook hack/attack, and to get a full night’s sleep. (The secret is to force yourself to stay up till 9:30 – no mean feat in the winter – take a Trazodone at bedtime; set the alarm for 2:00 so that, rather than waking up bursting with pee at 3:30 or 4:00 and then being unable to get back to sleep after said pee, take said pee and the Xanax and sleep till the blessedly late hour of 5:30, which wouldn’t leave any time to write even if I had anything to say.)
Meanwhile, the world is catching up with me, many of the things I’ve been obsessing about here emerging in the MSM. It makes me want to scream, of course – I said that! Me, me first! But if a tree falls in the forest etc. (It also hasn’t helped my productivity to discover that even days when I get 20 hits are mostly due to some weird spam-site process.) Everyone is talking about hand-correcting the matrix, there’s a whole book about chatting with chatbots and “what it all means,” and the Orderly March got a sock in the eye from a father who’s attacked the whole bullshit enchilada of the college admissions process:
But the author is no killjoy. On the contrary, he has a darned good idea of what most teenagers are all about—their unformed nature, their insecurities and, yes, their interest in sex—and if anything he resents the way the admissions rat race warps them into becoming, or at least pretending to be, something else. We see, for instance, Mr. Ferguson’s son agonizing to deliver the requisite self-revelation for a college application essay (the author calls this process "the Great Extrusion"). Burdened by a normal suburban teenage life and needing some drama to write about, the boy at first suggests that his parents divorce and then wishes that he’d been a drug addict. Finally he gets something down by inflating a minor personal episode into a transforming moment of illumination. The most darkly humorous aspect of this often hilarious book is its depiction of an admissions process that corrupts everything it touches.
It’s a process that discourages reticence by requiring students to write revealing and disingenuous personal essays; discourages thrift by regarding parental savings as fair game in the financial-aid evaluation; discourages intellectual curiosity by encouraging students to pursue grades rather than knowledge; and discourages honesty by transforming adolescence into a period of cynical calculation.
"At its most intense," Mr. Ferguson writes, "the admissions process didn’t force kids to be Lisa Simpson; it turned them into Eddie Haskell. . . . It guaranteed that teenagers would pursue life with a single ulterior motive, while pretending they weren’t. It coated their every undertaking in a thin lacquer of insincerity. Befriending people in hopes of a good rec letter; serving the community to advertise your big heart; studying hard just to puff up the GPA and climb the greasy poll of class rank—nothing was done for its own sake."
I wish I could say I was “part of the conversation,” but I’m not. Nobody’s reading this. And that’s my fault – because I’m not “out there” promoting myself, going to parties and joining things and handshaking and networking. Part of that is social retardation, part of it is feeling like I’ve had my chance and blown it – if I could be famous for coining an aphorism out of my life, I suppose it would be “I could have been a person who could have done so much, had I only become that person instead of me.” Or some such. School is a flameout in the “meeting people” department; I’m 48 and everyone else in class is 18, something I thought I’d avoid in a night class but no go. (It doesn’t help that it’s a lecture class so your natural, in-class interactions with other students are v. close to nil.) I probably just come off as the creepy old gay guy, I suppose, and so it goes. (On the bright side, I did get a B+ on my art history test, which I got moved to an A- after disputing a number of questions, some of which I still know I got right but for which I didn’t get credit – at least I’m smart enough these days to just let these things go. Thank the FSM my career destiny doesn’t rely on getting that 4.0 average.)
It’s true, what the research says – the longer you’re alone the more alone you become; without the key to the door that is the people who have already been through that door, nobody in the next room will let you in. I still shake my head at the cataracts of names that come in the acknowledgements pages of a published book, the vast social network that success requires – Romanticism is, I believe, the worst poison ever injected into the Body Artistic; this notion I was imbued with that the Great Man Toils Alone, that people like me could be successful writers, when in fact if most Great Men hadn’t gone to a lot of parties and punched people, nobody would have noticed them.
Friends are moving here in July, thank the FSM (the only real, “well-behaved” friends I still have left now live in Michigan, Texas and London), along with two dogs, one of whom I haven’t met and the other whom I slavishly adore, and so would you if he looked at you like this when you had a ball in your hand:
If you want love, get a dog.
Years of “bad behavior” have left me isolated, suspicious, paranoid and insecure, so “just getting out there” in the world ain’t happening. I’m “sure” everyone knows and hates me, so what’s the use. If only there was a Derek Zoolander Institute for People Who Are Too Messed Up To Get Another Chance But Would Probably Do Okay If Someone Gave Them One. It’s ironic that foundations, like banks, are built to reward success – you don’t get a grant unless you’ve proven that you’re doing fine in your career without one; i.e., just as “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” as the old saying goes, nobody ever got fired giving a grant to someone who already had tenure or other awards or otherwise proved they didn’t need it. When I win the lottery, I think I’ll start the Outland Foundation to Find Messed-Up People With Talent Whose Lives Might Be Ruined By A Large Cash Gift But Then Again Might Turn Out To Make Pretty Good Use Of The Validation and Approval They Get (Plus the Stuff You Can Do With Money Of Course).
All the same, some things are looking up. Work is going blazes, with full employment likely for the indefinite future. My trip to NYC in May, the only thing that keeps me sane as being my Something Wonderful to look forward to twice a year, is booked, with tickets already purchased for Jerusalem and The Book of Mormon. Friends and dogs will be relocating here in July so my “exile” (self imposed after putting the other set of bad behavior friends out of my life last fall) will soon be over. I’m planning on taking a summer class with a lower enrollment, and higher chances of class interaction that might help me actually meet people. I’m learning enough about Renaissance Florence that I’m shouting at PBS documentaries that get the facts wrong (the double-dome wasn’t Brunelleschi’s idea but rather part of the original design by Fioravanti), so if I ever do get to be part of that “artistic circle” without which any individual creative endeavor seems doomed, I’ll have the research well in hand for my Bronzino novel. In the meantime, I’ll bide my time, and see what happens.